An early spring day in Paris is where we meet Alexis Poliakoff, son of the painter Serge Poliakoff and guardian of his work.
A shy and affable person he is delighted in sharing with us his archiving mission, peppered with delightful family memories. Alexis takes care of an important and evolving private collection, assuming the responsibility of full protection of his father’s works, to whom he has dedicated an in depth catalogue. An extensive project undertaken thirty five years ago and which is close to completion with the fifth volume, scheduled for the end of 2014. Alexis reminds us of some figures of this archive: “Today we have indexed 2000 paintings and the same number of works on paper”. This passion has been transmitted to him by his mother after his father’s death, work that he carries on with great dedication and emotion: “His studio was next to my room and every morning he walked to my door. He introduced me to his secrets , such as the preparation of colors that he handcrafted personally. I lived immersed in his work for twenty years, while my mother cut out articles and photographs that she kept in some scrapbooks. My father kept some of those memories in a suitcase and this was the starting point of the entire archive.
I put aside my professional activity and as I often say, for Poliakoff I’m always free”. The family is engaged in cataloguing, authenticating and supporting public and private institutions for exhibitions as in the case of “The dreams of Forms” recently at the Musée d’Art Moderne: “Every year there are at least two major exhibitions , for which we are called to consult on some of the materials and documents”. Many collectors are interested in endorsement of the family: “I don’t think today a Poliakoff could be sold without a certificate, and all the certificates come from here. We store the copies in the archive”. Poliakoff is a mine of information and, while preferring more traditional instruments “I’m from old school and I like paper best” he early understood the importance of the transition to digital, sharing with his family the commitment to safeguard electronically the work of his father. A continuity ensured by a shared passion: “My daughter oversaw the last major exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne for example, and one day the archives Serge Poliakoff will be available in her gallery situated in Rue de Seine”.
A valuable family practice within a context that does not yet include a real national web archive. Leading a small group of people, Alexis Poliakoff has developed his own system of codes to organize the archive, a big structure in which each piece is identified by a specific number of six digits: the first digit identifies the technique and support; the two next digits that follow indicate the year of creation; the last three digits the order of inclusion in the program.
A scrupulous classification which also applies to fakes, handled internally in order to preserve memory: “We include them into the private catalogue with photos and all information in our possession. We assign a number and I provide the reasons for its non-compliance. In cases of evident bad faith we will ask for seizure , a process that can last for years”. In the future this devout heir considers returning to his former profession, the world of Pixi figurines and writing his memoirs for a future biography in order to “Tell our truth. They run a lot of old legends , such as the balalaika that my father actually never played , preferring the guitar”.
This post is also available in: Italian